The island of Mal di Ventre

Off the coast of Oristano rises a strip of land given a name by ancient peoples which is not very reassuring: "Malu Entu" - the island of bad winds.

by Giangi Chiesura

Unique rocks, eroded by the wind and the strength of the sea, immersed in crystal water. An environmental oasis of rare beauty, with nuraghi and ancient remains, but ever more threatened by unscrupulous and uncivilized visitors.

img The strange name of this island is apparently owing to a superficial translation made by Piedmontese cartographers who interpreted the Sardinian name Malu Entu (bad winds) as Mal di Ventre (stomach pain). The island lies off the west coast of Sardinia, about 4.5 miles from the promontory of Capu Mannu in the province of Oristano. Its area is just over 1 square kilometre. The highest point, where there is a lighthouse, is about 18 metres. The island is mainly composed of granite and large felspars, covered with granitic scree and steppe-like vegetation.

img There are many remains of ancient civilizations on the island. The earliest evidence dates back as far as the first neolithic settlements, proof of which is found in remains of buildings and some fragments of worked obsidian. Additional evidence is provided by the finding of green stones, also known as ofioriti, in some of the island's beaches. These stones are also found in prehistoric villages in the area of Oristano. Greater evidence is found of the later Nuraghic period. The remains of two nuraghi, (prehistoric towers constructed by the ancient nuraghic civilization) connected by a corridor of large blocks of granite, can easily be seen in the eastern part of the island on a little promontory which faces the beautiful bay, Cala dei Pastori. There are also some ceramic fragments of great interest which, after careful examination of the clay, revealed themselves to be composed of materials found only on the island. This indicates activity during the Nuraghic period.

img Evidence of Punic-Roman civilization comes from the reports of General Alberto Lamarmora who was most impressed by this marvellous island and wrote in his "Itinerari"; "The island was inhabited during Roman times because ruins of ancient buildings and of a fountain with a construction can be found." The fountain is probably one of the wells used until recently by shepherds who, at the beginning of the year, transport their sheep to the island in fishermen's boats to remain there until Easter.

img The expert Raimondo Zucca mentions in one of his recent publications a Late-Medieval settlement in the eastern-central part of the island. It is probable that this settlement was monastery. There is more of evidence to be found in the many relics in the surrounding waters of the island. The last important finding was of a Roman merchant ship about 36 metres in length, sunk around 50-60 BC. The ship was transporting a cargo of lead ingots from the Iberian port of Nuova Cartago and was probably headed for Rome.

There is a further layer of remains on the island, somewhat less noble. In fact, thanks to mass tourism and so-called "civilization" the new remains are represented by the many plastic rubbish bags and other detritus that barbarians in the guise of tourists leave on the island after having enjoyed its beauty, as a memento of their stay.

img The island presents two morphologically opposed areas, both fascinating. The first is exposed to the north-west Mistral wind and the westerly wind, and the heavy sea caused by them. The landscape is rugged and wild, composed of granitic rocks sculpted by the wind and the force of the sea. The second however, is exposed to the south-east and offers to visitors wonderful coves framed by beaches composed of minute spheres of pure quartz. Thanks to the mainly granite seabed, the water has a unique colour and transparence. The vegetation of the island is typical mediterranean macchia , very scarse and low because of the strong winds. There is a prevalence of lentisk, cisto, wormwood with tamerisk and, in the wetter areas, numerous salty grasses. Also present, but in small numbers, is the dwarf palm. In the summer period, a large part of the island is covered with wild garlic and soft meadows of meadow phleum, while in the proximity of the beaches you can find perfumed sand lilies. The fauna of the island is very varied. The lords of the island are undoubtedly the seagull communities which number hundreds particularly in spring when they gather to lay their eggs. More rare are the Corsican seagulls which, with the cormorants, the buzzards, the ash-coloured herons, the mergansers and the petrels, complete the richness of the island's birdlife. With a little luck you can see rabbits and tortoises, while the unlucky may encounter the malmignatta, a dangerous spider also known as the "black widow".

The most attractive feature of this fascinating island remains however the sea, transparent and with a bottom which is rich in colour and life. The island Mal di Ventre has been included in the Sinis-Montiferru institutional park according to a regional law of 1898.

img For the moment however everything remains on paper while bureaocratic channels remain blocked or slowed by opposition from council administrations. For the safeguard of such a wonderful natural heritage and for the controlled development of tourism, the greatest sensitivity is necessary and commitment on the part of those who seek to slow down the project.

For those who would like to visit l'Isola di Mal di Ventre, contact:

via Frescobaldi 4
09170 Oristano
tel. 0783/52197 

Versione Italiana